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Fueling Efficiency or Impatience?

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If waiting longer than 60 seconds for a refill on your soda is unacceptable, then perhaps you should head to the Sunshine State for dinner. After all, Floridians are enjoying new service technology from their local Applebee’s, so why shouldn’t you?

Notification devices which allow restaurant patrons to immediately summon their waiter/waitress were installed in several Florida Applebee’s restaurants for testing. According to a blog post by Jennifer Lawinski:

The system is activated when a host seats a table and swipes a watch against the small black box. A server is notified by vibrating watch and has 60 seconds to arrive at the table or a manager is alerted. Managers are also informed when customers press the button several times.

As further reported by the Orlando Sentinel (which unfortunately has been removed from the site since this blog post was originally written), the system allows for immediate feedback from diners, promotes constant communication between the restaurant staff and essentially strives to keep patrons in control of their dining experience. From this perspective, it appears that the introduction of this technology may be just what people are looking for when it comes to receiving a speedy and efficient meal. But, what if gaining this new technology—and all its anticipated benefits— negatively affects both the service  and atmosphere of the restaurant?

According to blogger and waitress Hannah Raskin, the system is a threat:

“I’m not thrilled by the prospect of being put on an electronic tether. Like anyone who’s had to confront the possibility of being replaced by a machine, I believe my job requires a sophistication computers can’t yet mimic.”

Likewise, Rick van Warner, president of an Orlando-based restaurant and retail-consulting firm, questioned how the system will affect customer service:

“Will it make servers become less attentive and just become reliant on the buzzer? Will customers have less patience if a buzzer doesn’t get answered promptly?”

employee satisfaction at a restaurant

© Flickr user Adikos

Its goal is to improve the restaurant’s response time to diners, but perhaps all it will actually do is decrease dining satisfaction. After all, if the system does as it suggests, it will undoubtedly force servers and staff to rush through their usual processes. As well all know, rushing through anything increases stress, sloppiness, and the possibility for unnecessary error—all of which cause frustration and annoyance. So in the end, though a patron’s cheeseburger is served at racing speed, satisfaction with the meal may still be lost if it’s missing the additional bacon requested, served by someone completely frazzled or simply not cooked to the diner’s liking.

When attempting to streamline processes it’s easy to become distracted by all the positive outcomes a solution may bring. But the truth is, new implementations are not immune to negative or counterproductive side-effects. Therefore, it’s important to consider all outcomes of a solution, both positive and negative, prior to enacting it.  Otherwise, you may end up discovering that, though a process has changed, it may not have actually improved.

While some may no doubt be thrilled with a quicker restaurant experience, many others don’t mind the wait, the time for conversation, and the knowledge that quality servers will get to their table before too long. Faster doesn’t always equal better. If any restaurants are thinking of putting such a process in place, it’s important to know whether they’re really going to improve the dining experience, and most importantly, the odds of a customer returning for multiple visits.

If your company is in need of pin-pointing inefficiencies and rebuilding broken procedures, contact our business process consultants today! We’ll assist your team in developing solutions that deliver successful results WITHOUT restrictive time limits.

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